Newsletter August 2007



This year the rain in June and July was exceptional as it brought the river’s level up to a springtime height for most of the time, unfortunately the rain did not bring with it the really good salmon fishing which we might have expected in these conditions. Angling pressure on Association water during the day appears to have been light with many members not bothering to fish. The catches to date would seem to indicate only a mediocre run of salmon. However some notable catches have been made including a fine fish taken at Totnes Weir by Nigel Gipson (estimated at 20 lbs) while sea trout fishing during the day with a single handed rod. Other successful members catching salmon include Robin Thorn, Dave Pakes, Andy Myall, and Derek Myhill. Andy’s and Derek’s fish estimated at 15 lbs and 11 lbs respectively. Brown Trout member Paul Hetherington caught two salmon in one morning while taking his Reg 5 day for the month in June.

I know that all members are aware or should be that one of our regulations is that their first salmon caught in the season after June 16th is returned. This rule helps enormously to push our C&R rate towards the 90% figure which we try our best to reach as a conservation target agreed with the Agency.

I understand that a couple of salmon have been killed and of course this is one of the primary reasons that we all go fishing. In order to achieve the 90% figure I would urge salmon members that it is very important that they fish as much as they possibly can, and by returning their first or perhaps second or third salmon this helps to put the Dart in the fore front of C& R tables in the South West.

The above is not intended as a lecture from the Secretary (or a rap on the knuckles; for heaven forbid killing a salmon!) but rather a reflection of the unfortunate statistical direction that salmon fishing has moved into in 2007. A number of members say to me that they do not salmon fish as much as they used to because they do not like having to release their catch. To illustrate the point I am trying to make, if ten members each catch two salmon after June 16th and return their first fish and they all keep the second fish this gives a C&R percentage of 50%, when we are asked to achieve 90% by the Agency. I do personally find the premise that we have to fish hard (for the few fish that there are about these days), in order to give this high catch and release rate quite hard to reconcile and I also understand why some members have difficulty with it.

Prior to the start of the rains there were some exceptional sea trout taken in Tomes Weir Pool and several in the river upstream.There were at least six sea trout over 10 lbs caught and all very admirably released. The biggest and probably a record for the river taken by Ed Richards.

This was a magnificent fish (38 inches long and estimated at 17 lbs). I was fortunate to net this fish for Ed after a battle lasting nearly half an hour. While I have been told by several more senior members that the Hon Sec can’t tell the difference between a salmon and a sea trout, all I can say is that apart from the sheer¬†size, it was the most striking looking fish I have ever seen. The markings were most pronounced with very heavy dense spots from the top of the back and dorsal fin right down to the belly, as sea trout which are multi spawners often are. Congratulations to Ed on a fantastic fish which he may never better, even perhaps if he went to the Falklands or Patagonia. It also goes to prove that the Dart can still come up trumps and remind us what an amazing little river we are fortunate to fish.

Once the rain started at the end of May night sea trout fishing came to a virtual halt in the high levels and coloured water that has predominated right into July. This made attempts to judge the numbers of sea trout very difficult and many anglers and friends that I have spoken to have expressed concern that the numbers were light or was it just the conditions that made estimating the size of the run difficult. The committee does have concerns about sea trout stocks and will monitor the returns very closely.

Extension to Salmon Season

This was discussed in some depth at last years AGM and while opinions were quite varied it was clear that there was support from the membership for a season extension in the light of climate change and the timing offish running. This was subsequently raised within the DFA and then discussed with the Agency who have now agreed to the season on the Dart being extended to October 14th. The whole of October was initially sought. This extension however does represent a start and if successful perhaps all of October might be agreeable in future years. All methods permissible will apply as during the rest of the season but the extension will be entirely catch and release with single barbless hooks. Initial proposals from the Agency were for fly only but we did make representations via the DFA for the inclusion of spinning as the committee felt this would provide the best possible information on stocks.

Those wishing to fish in October must contact me to have their names included on a list which will be submitted via the DFA to the Agency. I would also request that members contact by telephone or email to advise me of fish caught during the period so that I can quickly correlate the totals which will be in addition to the normal returns.

I read in the Trout and Salmon that the Cornish rivers Fowey and Camel and Devon Avon are considered as rivers which are achieving their egg deposition targets and their salmon stocks are not considered to be in a parlous state. I wonder how much this is due to the fact that they are all fished heavily by angling associations and have late runs and fishing seasons.Derek Myhill made the point at our meeting with the Agency three years ago (Byelaw Meeting) surely it is very foolish to base a rivers success or failure on the return made by anglers (with all the variables in conditions that a particular season can have),here again we have the agency fish counting statistics based on poor methodology and not by the correct scientific methods which we would all prefer.

I enclose a list of working party dates for redd raking and weed removal on the spawning tributaries as organised by the DFA. This is important habitat improvement works and I urge members to make the effort on at least on or two occasions to assist in this vital project. This is also advertised on the Association website.

Aug 07 Hon Sec.